In the ever-evolving world of corporate leadership, being a successful manager is often perceived as a natural talent. However, Christine Sandman Stone, a renowned speaker, author, and founder of Deliver at Scale, shatters this misconception in her latest book, The Modern Management Mentor.
During a recent event with the Dreams with Deadlines community, Christine shared insights and tactics from her book, illustrating that management is a skill that can be acquired and refined through practice.
At its core, successful management revolves around delivering results and caring for your people. By striking the right balance between the two, the modern manager creates an environment for productivity, growth, and employee satisfaction.
In this post, we highlight key points from the conversation, discussing six takeaways for managing people and results to become a successful manager.
1. Conquer arrogance
“I believe the toughest problem for managers to overcome is arrogance — because arrogance is the sibling of confidence.”
Christine says one of the main challenges in becoming a successful manager is overcoming arrogance, which usually stems from previous wins as an individual contributor. Stepping into a managerial role requires a shift away from ego-driven tendencies, as what creates individual success is typically ineffective in a managerial role.
Instead of imposing your own best practices, respect the diverse working styles and approaches to reaching objectives, to foster a more collaborative, inclusive, and adaptable work environment.
2. Rebuild trust after a misstep
Your actions must match your words to build trust with peers and direct reports. When this doesn’t happen, make it right. This includes admitting your mistakes and demonstrating tangible improvements. By doing this, you not only mend broken trust but also establish a more robust foundation of trust for future interactions.
“It starts with an apology, but then it has to be followed with action that people can observe so that they know that your words mean something, but it is so possible to recover from a mess up.”
3. Ensure intentional interactions with executives
Leading as a successful manager also involves developing a strong, trusting relationship with your boss and being intentional about those interactions. Christine emphasized the importance of language when meeting or requesting time with an executive.
“I never call it a one-on-one. Never. I say, I'd love to get a half an hour with you, to get your insight on how I want to make an adjustment to how I'm working with the team. Frame it as something specific that you want to meet on and bring them in with you.”
She suggests switching the traditional "one-on-one" term for a more specific meeting request. Executives will want to know what’s expected of them and why it’ll be a productive use of their time.
4. Make time for strategic work
Another common challenge for managers is balancing short-term ‘run-the-business’ work with longer-term strategic thinking. Christine recommends making dedicated time for strategic work on a weekly or monthly basis, removing all the usual distractions, and going somewhere completely different.
‘’First, I have a few broad ideas about what I want to accomplish and what I want to get out of the time. I shut off every single messaging system. No Slack. No messaging system. The phone is off and I go somewhere completely different.”
For a change in scenery, Christine likes going to the Chicago Athletic Club, where there’s a room with fireplaces and big comfy chairs. This helps her reorient herself and think more creatively.
5. Cultivate a network of sponsors and mentors
Christine firmly believes in the importance of mentors and sponsors.
Mentors are the people who can guide and support you, aiding in your professional growth by helping you navigate challenges. They're the ones to whom you can bring your honest problems, doubts, and concerns. However, they shouldn’t be someone who decides your promotion.
On the flip side, sponsors can directly influence your promotion opportunities. They have the power to showcase your achievements to higher-ups, ensuring recognition at the executive level. Because of that, they're the ones you should only share the good with, backing up your successes with specific details.
Understanding the distinction between mentors and sponsors allows you to build a network of advisors who can help you through the hard times and accelerate your career growth.
6. Create virtual team harmony
In the age of virtual teams, getting the onboarding process and team relationships right is crucial. Many managers use a “buddy system” for onboarding, giving new hires a key contact for their newbie questions. A better way, Christine suggests, is to assign multiple onboarding buddies. Employing this best practice allows new hires to interact with many different people,, learn from their diverse perspectives, and build relationships early on.
Another important onboarding tip is to use OKRs to set expectations for new hires. Christine suggests having OKRs drafted when they start and discussing these together. This way, new employees feel a sense of clarity and ownership over their objectives and how these will be measured.
Remember, team engagement doesn’t end with onboarding. Show you care by checking in on your team members regularly, “the way you’d check up on your grandmother,” says Christine. Leverage messaging technology for quick and casual conversations with your team. Ask about topics beyond work. And most importantly, foster a culture of appreciation by celebrating wins and acknowledging people for their contributions.
In a nutshell
Becoming a successful manager involves a shift away from the individual and toward the collective, focusing on mindful work and collaboration at every level. By incorporating the tips highlighted above — from overcoming arrogance to creating virtual harmony — you can drive results while creating more fulfilling workplace for everyone involved.
For more tools, tactics, and successful managerial practice, check out Christine’s latest book, The Modern Management Mentor: Next-level Tools for New Managers and connect with other results-driven leaders in the Dreams with Deadlines community!
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About the author:
Christine Sandman Stone is speaker, advisor, strategist, connector of ideas and people, and author. Founder of Deliver at Scale, Christine is a sought-after expert in the areas of strategic planning in tech, transformation, work-life balance, and tech talent diversity. She previously led Groupon’s recovery and survival of the pandemic via OKR and Agile transformation across the global Product & Engineering organizations. She honed her skills at VW/Audi, EMC2 Dell, McDonald’s and consulting firms. Leading technical change and developing people is a natural part of Christine’s approach, formalized in her graduate work in Organizational Behavior. Her second book, The Management Mentor, was beta tested with people managers in growing companies, and is set to be a sought-after reference for newly minted people managers, especially those in tech.